Archive for February 26th, 2011

The Long Road to Madison, Wisconsin

by Arjun Janah, Brooklyn, February 26th, 2011

In 1959, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to grant municipal employees and teachers the right to bargain collectively for wages and benefits. In 1967, this was extended to all state employees.  It is perhaps worth noting that the first law was passed under a Democratic governor, at a time when the state Assembly was controlled by Democrats and the state Senate by Republicans. The second law was passed under a Republican governor, with both houses controlled by Republicans.

…we have in place…a global race to the bottom for labor, where the worker must work harder and longer (both in hours per week and years per life) for less, under increasing stress, anxiety and insecurity, and a global “race to the top” … for the wealthiest and their courtiers.

So we see that, by the 60’s, a bipartisan consensus had been reached, at least in Wisconsin (as well as in many other states) about the rights of public workers to have unions and to bargain collectively.

Unions are now at about 12% nationwide, but at around 36% in public sector jobs. So now we see an assault underway against the public sector unions. …we have seen an acceleration of the trend towards increasing income inequality, with the majority of the wealth and income in this country being concentrated…in the hands of a very small fraction of the population.

Now, a full half century later, we see Scott Walker, Republican governor of Wisconsin, attempting to take away public workers’ right to collectively bargain for pensions and other benefits.  He is not content that they have agreed to cuts in these, and to pay more for them, even though the alleged budget deficit can be directly traced to hundred-million-dollar tax cuts given recently by governor Walker to the wealthy in his state. His goal is to accelerate the process of dismantling what is left of the union movement in this country.  In this, he is in active partnership with other Republican governors and their billionaire backers. Continue reading ‘The Long Road to Madison, Wisconsin’